Cal's initial position.Initial position

Bike Fit Case Study: The cycling musician

I am fortunate enough to encounter many interesting and diverse clients each year. Everyone has a story to tell…

There is no one recipe for every fit. Instead I have a system of assessment that I apply in each bike fit. This, combined with my experience, helps me to find solutions to the client’s unique combination of physiology, goals and concerns.

Image of rider taken from behind showing a twisted pelvis.Something that I see quite often is a rider with a “twisted pelvis”. There are many causes, each requiring different remedial action. I work hard to avoid assumptions based on previous “similar” clients.

In this case study, I’ll discuss how we solved the issues that my client Cal was experiencing.

Cal is a keen road cyclist with an interest in racing. His main complaint when riding was a “pinching and rolling” of the skin and superficial connective tissue beneath his left pelvis where it contacted his saddle.  Cal had several previous bike fits, been seeing a physiotherapist for months and trialed several saddles. Despite all of this, he was still experiencing a lot of discomfort.

Twisted

Once I got Cal on the fit bike it was obvious that he was dropping his pelvis to the right (side saddling) as well as rotating his pelvis counter clockwise. This caused his right knee to track closer to the top tube.

The bike is a symmetrical structure. Cal accommodated these twists through his pelvis by counter rotating his torso in the opposite direction (clockwise).

I suspected that the rotation of Cal’s pelvis on the saddle was causing increased friction and pressure on the left ischial rami region. Observation in one context can be informative. However establishing a reason behind this presentation required a deeper investigation.

There is a thorough questioning process that I go through which each client as part of a bike fit. Turns out Cal is a professional guitarist and spends up to 8 hours a day practicing. In this case a visit to Cal’s work space was in order. I needed to observe how playing might be contributing to his twist.

Field trip

Cal playing the guitar.What I observed was a very definite rotation of Cal’s pelvis (and torso) in a counterclockwise direction. This position is being held for several hours a day. Therefore it was no wonder that he was kind of stuck in this position when riding!

I also wanted to observe him riding on the road.  Whist a fit bike or trainer is a valuable tool in bike fitting, both result in a system that is artificially fixed in the vertical plane. When the bike is free to tilt, a cyclist with a pelvic, spinal or shoulder twist will often cant the bike. This can mean that their contact with the bike is different out on the road compared to the trainer.

When riding on the road, I also noticed Cal leant his upper body to the left with a concomitant cantilevering of the bike to the right. Gradually, I was putting pieces of this puzzle together.

My first approach after videoing this client riding on the ride was to make him aware of these adaptations he was making on the bike. Awareness is half the battle! I then suggested that on training rides he begins to pay attention to his position on the bike and spend 5 minute intervals intentionally straightening his body and bike.

With the changes in position made during the fit and several weeks of paying attention to pelvis position and bike tilt, Cal was able to resolve his saddle discomfort.

This case study highlights the fact that my job can be challenging… but immensely satisfying when resolutions are found. It also shows that the bike fitting process can be a journey rather than an instant fix. Being willing to trial different things over weeks can be necessary to find a solution and make cycling enjoyable once again!